The St. Paul Saints opens its 2019 season Thursday, May 16. Just two wins shy of the American Association title last fall, the team is anxious to start play in its quest to break a 15-season title drought.
“The first half of the  season, we were just OK,” Manager George Tsamis told the MSR during the team’s May 3 media day, adding that things drastically changed upward after the Saints acquired outfielder Burt Reynolds. “When we got Burt [in late June of last year], things started turning around.
“He came in and got some big hits for us. That was the turning point of our season turning around and heading in the right direction. He was the spark we needed last year,” Tsamis said.
Reynolds, in a Saints uniform, amassed impressive numbers, including two multi-game hit streaks (11 and eight, respectively) and 15 home runs hit during his half-season with the club. “He was really good for us,” Tsamis said of the 6’-1” 222-pound player.
An 11-year veteran whose baseball career has mainly been spent in the minors (A and A-plus teams, and independent clubs such as the Saints), Reynolds re-signed with St. Paul on April 15. He told the MSR, “I enjoyed being here last year. Great staff. Great fan base. Great everything.”
The American Association regular season is 100 games with six teams in the North Division and six teams in the South Division. The top two teams in each division make the playoffs in a best-of-five series, and the winners play for the championship, also a best-of-five format.
Reynolds pointed out that he worked hard over the off-season “keep[ing] my body ready to last 100 games, maybe more,” he added. “I am trying to win some games, help the team win.”
The Saints’ 27th season opens with a four-game series against Milwaukee May 16-19. Then, after an off-day, St. Paul hosts the Chicago Dogs (May 21-23), and Sioux City rounds out the home stand from May 24-26. The 10-straight home stand to open the season is the first time this has occurred since 2005, when the Saints went 6-4 and later won a first-half South Division title.
Sometime in August, the team expects to welcome their 2,000,000th fan to the St. Paul Lowertown ballpark; the Saints have thus far drawn 1,633,432 in their first four seasons at the stadium. The team has led the American Association in attendance the past four seasons, drawing over 400,000 per summer. The team’s second-highest total in franchise history was set in 2018, with nearly 409,000.
“It’s just great to be here,” Reynolds reiterated.
Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org